Newport Beach Film Festival: A glimpse into Newport Beach film culture

Every April,  movie marquees across Orange County are seized by the Newport Beach Film Festival.  The big, black block letters advertising the annual festival host over 350 films shown in a span of about eight days. The Newport Beach Film Festival boasts a variety of films, including foreign movies and short films.

Lesser-known movie directors that are able to film in their free time usually produce the movies shown at the festival. Often it’s the first time creators screen their film for an audience, but that does not mean that they should be discredited or taken any less seriously than the big-budget Hollywood films.

Catherine Dickinson, the head of community partnerships at the Newport Beach Film Festival, said, “The Newport Beach Film Festival introduces you to movies that you would have never had thought of watching, or even known about, through regular cinema-going. I have watched some really brilliant movies from all over the world, without perhaps initially realizing how much I would enjoy them. It’s a bit like a great friend introducing you to something. You can rely on the Newport Beach Film Festival to show you something unexpected.”



Since its inception in 1998, the Newport Beach Film Festival has screened a multitude of noteworthy films, including “Layer Cake,” “(500) Days of Summer,” “Crash,” “Chef,” “Waitress,” “The Illusionist,” and countless others.

Dickinson said, “We try and find movies that have a local connection as well, and obviously loads of movies are made in L.A., but [my favorite] was a really independent movie. I think it took the film maker over five years to get the money together, and then doing it in his spare time, and it was a cool walking-around L.A. love story.”

Audiences had several opportunities to catch the film at the festival that year, on top of a couple of movie screenings in Los Angeles.

The goal of the festival, aside from supporting new and upcoming movie producers, is to introduce a culture of film and art to the Newport Beach community. Not only does the NBFF premiere a variety of movies with local ties, but it also brings a variety of foreign films to the table.

Dickinson said, “We will have amazing movie access to our films, for example, but to really gain an understanding and by really reviewing some of the best art and film, you can really broaden yourself as a person.  I do think it broadens your world really to see all of these points of view.  There’s a lot of shallow culture out there to view online, through YouTube or Instagram, and we love that. But I think you get something deeper by experiencing art, and I think that by pairing up with more organizations and schools I think we can help guide people to some of the better art films.”

A unique characteristic of the festival is the engagement between an audience and the film producers.  After movie screenings, directors and producers often host a Q&A session open to the entire audience.  This differentiates the festival from cinema going or streaming movies online, viewers can ask questions left on their minds after watching the movie.

Dickinson said, “It’s so interesting to see who made the movie, and hear a little bit about what moods they filmed, what the difficulties were, what they wanted to say with their movie. Often, they open up to questions by the audience. You’re often left thinking about something after the movie, and with this you have the directors and actors there to answer your questions.”

This year, the festival will take place from April 20-27, featuring over 350 movies.

Lights, camera, action!

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